Per Brandt
Per Brandt

Polarium, active in energy storage solutions, has grown strongly since 2015. In a short time, it has gone from a handful of employees to 750 employees, 350,000 installed batteries and a turnover of close to SEK 1.1 billion in 2021. As they were going to take the next big step in the expansion, it was important to have an IT function that kept up with the business. Before the recruitment process for a CIO started, it was decided to bring in an interim CIO to get started with the necessary structures, systems and to get processes in place. In February 2022, Per Brandt started the assignment.

“Three international factories had been established in just a few years and a lot was missing in the IT function. It quickly became clear that a number of basic structures needed to be put in place for the IT function to catch up with the rest of the organization, both in terms of technical solutions and in adding manpower and expertise, especially in cloud and cybersecurity. Polarium is a typical entrepreneurial organization that is entering a new phase and it is important to stabilize and build robust processes. The business has tremendous potential with macro trends such as the climate crisis and the demand for solutions to meet the demands for energy efficiency. The products replace, for example, diesel generators and lead-acid batteries for electric backup. One example is Polarium’s telecom customers who have base stations all over the world and in places where the energy supply is uncertain. Here, Polarium can offer sustainable energy storage solutions in the form of smart Lithium-ion batteries. Now Polarium is also moving forward and launching products that stabilize the power grids.”, he says.

In 2003, Per got his first role as IT Director at Telenor where he drove the work to expand the IT function from an operational infrastructure department to become a function that covered all aspects of IT with a focus on strategy, architecture, business relationship management and development of support systems. After three years, he had the chance to take on a global role as Group IT Director for Munters with responsibility for all systems and platforms, standardized global IT infrastructure and end-user support. IT was lagging behind and unlike Telenor, this was about catching up with the organization. During his time there, they went from local IT functions without global standards, to a strongly centralized organization with 55 employees.

15 years later, Per wanted to try to use and share his experience as an Interim Manager, and his first interim role was as CIO at Bauer Media (Mix Megapol, Rockklassiker and others). “The previous CIO had quit just before I came in the following week. This was a new situation for me, it was mostly about coming in as a confident leader, supporting and making decisions. There were good skills internally and I proposed an internal solution for the permanent role, which was also realized.”

You will soon finish your role at Polarium, what is your next step?

“Together with the recruiting manager and HR, I was involved in setting the requirements profile for the new CIO who has now taken over, it will be great! It is important for me to make as good a handover as possible, which is why I am happy to have had the opportunity to continue the work together with the new CIO in one of the priority projects at Polarium. I like working with IT, there are always problem areas to address where improvements are clearly noticeable. I want to be close to the business both operationally and strategically. In the next assignment, I would like to try a new industry with international subsidiaries or why not public administration? Ultimately, IT looks pretty similar regardless of industry.”

Cyber-attacks have become increasingly common, what precautions should a company take?

“You need to work with security at all levels. Governing documents in the form of policies that the management and the board of directors have agreed upon, as well as training initiatives for all employees. Within the IT organization, perhaps the single most important thing is the supply of skills, with its own staff and/or through partnerships. You must be prepared to work both broadly and deeply, “the devil is in the details”. Investing in modern cloud solutions where there is a supplier who can invest large resources in security work and who keeps the solutions updated, is another good path for many companies. This is easier for new companies to do as they do not have a heavy backpack to carry in the form of old solutions. Attacks have increased incredibly much in recent years; it is now a completely different threat than before. I have been through some serious incidents where systems have been taken over and blackmail has occurred. I would say that extortion threats are the biggest problem now, but also industrial espionage. When it comes to espionage, someone wants to access information without being detected, while those who blackmail want to sabotage vital information and then make themselves known and present their blackmail threat. Finally, I want to emphasize conducting exercises in which different scenarios are staged and a cyberattack is simulated, much is to be learned from such exercises.”

How do you make sure to have a good work/life balance?

“The best thing for me is to prioritize time for training, preferably running. It works as a mental cleansing, and it becomes easier to disconnect from work when you are having free time.”